CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — The University of Virginia is facing a lawsuit from one of its former football players who claims he was bullied and hazed by teammates because he suffers from a learning disability.
The accuser is former wide receiver Aidan Howard, who signed his National Letter of Intent last February and enrolled at UVA over the summer. He has since transferred to Robert Morris University because — the lawsuit claims — of his treatment at UVA and an injury that occurred as a result of that treatment.
According to the federal Title IX lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, the accuser was hazed because of his underclassman status and further bullied because he had trouble learning plays and schemes, which his teammates attributed to a learning disability. Howard attained a 3.0 GPA during UVA’s summer session, according to his attorney James Zeszutek.
The lawsuit claims Howard was accused of being “dumb” and “retarded,” among other things, and that his manliness and toughness were questioned.
Also in the lawsuit is a disturbing episode where the accuser claims he was forced to fight another younger player. He claims he suffered a broken eye socket during the fight and that he hasn’t been able to play football since. The lawsuit alleges this incident occurred in August. Zeszutek says Howard transferred soon after.
“The people involved with this are still playing. They’re going on with their lives like nothing ever happened,” Zeszutek told 8News. “Aidan is injured and cannot play this season. We would like some accountability.”
Zeszutek added that they chose to file the lawsuit after receiving little cooperation from the University of Virginia.
“They were supposed to get back to us and didn’t,” the lawyer said. “We do not want to have a media circus with this whole thing, but since we did not hear from the university we had to file the lawsuit, and the lawsuit will take its course.”
The University responded with a statement from University spokeperson Paul de Bruyn.
“The University is aware of Mr. Howard’s allegations and has made all of the required external notifications in accordance with state law. The University has been actively investigating these reports consistent with its obligations under the law and University policy. The University does not comment on ongoing litigation and will not make any further statements regarding this case.